I've been thinking about schools. And the way people keep saying "schools are the safest place for kids."

A slow-moving #thread about our collective abnegation of responsibility for the health of our communities. 1/
Back in March 2020, everything sort of shut down. I say "sort of," because as lock-downs go, the US was pretty mild. The government did not pay everyone to stay home for three weeks. Not did anyone send food. Instead, we all hunger-gamed it to get toilet paper and milk 1/
Those of us with computer jobs rapidly learned the art of Zooming. But for many people - essential workers - going to work everyday and risking exposure became a necessity, not just for their own survival, but for all of us. 2/
In the US - we took what really was a collective responsibility and made it individual. This meant that the so-called lock down never really worked. And it didn't work at all for the folks who had to ride the bus and bag groceries and treat the sick. 3/
It wasn't long before the "Open Up" narrative took over public discourse. "Get people back to work" was the mantra. The health of the economy took priority over the health of our communities. 4/
In Chicago, public parks were shut down in March 2020 including playgrounds. During the summer of 2020, bars and restaurants started opening up. But not the playgrounds, and not the schools. This was NOT because bars were somehow safer than playgrounds or schools. 5/
But because we - collectively - were unwilling to create the safety necessary for schools and playgrounds. Safe communities - lower community spread - would make schools safer places. But bars and restaurants contribute to the health of the economy way more than playgrounds. 6/
When February of 2021 came around, bringing the first confrontation between teachers and the city, getting kids back to school was becoming an issue. "Learning loss" was certainly a part of the equation. But also, if kids weren't in school, their parents could be at work. 7/
By then, the narrative had shifted from collective responsibility to "individual risk tolerances," again, moving away from our collective responsibility to individual choices. If teachers felt unsafe in buildings, it was because "their own risk tolerance was too low." 8/
The collective action of teachers was a shock to the system because we have largely abandoned the idea of public health. The anger and vitriol thrown at teachers has largely been because they are exposing the truth - that we have largely failed this group project. 9/
As we face the Omicron wave, the narrative being spun is - again - one of individual risk (and risk *tolerance*) rather than collective responsibility. 10/
The "pandemic of the unvaccinated" is 100% a product of this narrative. As if overrun hospitals were only a problem for those who - for whatever reason - are not vaccinated. 11/
The most recent controversy surrounding schools again centered narrative primarily of individual risk. "Teachers are mostly vaccinated!" "Kids usually do well with COVID!" Thus framing any resistance to in-person school as a failure to accurately calibrate individual risk. 12/
"Schools are the safest places for kids" means that we have failed to make the larger community safe. Things that would make communities safe: paid leave for parents, collective efforts to lower community spread, significant outdoor infrastructure for safer gathering. 13/
But instead of having the larger conversation about why our communities are not safe for children and families, we are locked in a debate about whether schools are safe and whether teachers have an appropriate risk tolerance.

This is bullshit. 14/
And at this point - nearly into the third year if the pandemic, I honestly don't know how we change direction. There is so little will to actually care for each other collectively.

Because collective care is policy. It's paid time off. Free testing. Masks. 15/
And trust. Collective care can yield trust in each other, along with the acknowledgement that we are all in this together until we are all out of it. We can not "individual responsibility" our way out of this pandemic.

But we are sure choosing the hard way to learn.

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